What Makes Brands Cool?

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Craft Your Brand, Podcast, Season 3

So far this season here in the Magic Maker podcast, we’ve been diving into the weird and wonderful things that make a brand a brand. We’ve focused a lot on the meaning and purpose parts behind your brand – how to find and communicate your ‘big why’ in particular… as well as that all powerful desire and magnetism that makes people so loyal and addicted to some brands.

Today I want to explore the bit of branding you’re probably more familiar with – the aesthetic side. I want to demystify and define exactly what goes into making all that theoretical why and purpose stuff actually WORK in the way that matters most to your bottom line – which of course is to help drive sales.

I call these brand advantages ‘Brand Cool’

Instinctively, I’m sure you can relate to what I mean when I say ‘brand cool’ because we’ve all had experiences with products from ketchup to shampoo, coffee houses to cars, shoes to electronics… where we just can’t get enough of a particular brand: its cool just sucks us in.

You can bet that doesn’t happen by accident. That level of desire is crafted and curated and today I want to give you an outline of the individual categories you need to master to get your own brand cool. In the next few episodes we’ll dive further into each one because there’s just way more to cover than we can get through in one episode.

Be sure to grab the PDF download

It is a comprehensive checklist you can use to gather your own brand assets – from the types and sizes of logos you should have, to which images you need to the bits of copy you’ll want to have on hand for your website and social media. Don’t miss it because it’s a SUPER handy guide – whether you’re going through a rebrand or you want to see how your existing brand stacks up!

Ok I’m keen to jump in because as a branding expert and also a designer and photographer, this is one of my very favorite topics. The power of the stuff we are exploring today just can’t be exaggerated. This may be one of those episodes you want to share with all your entrepreneur friends because I am answering some of the most common questions about this brand cool process, including when you actually don’t need to invest in branding at all, and what you should expect to pay for a really great branding when you do!

So without further ado, let’s make some magic, shall we?

So far this season we’ve established that as a part of ‘being more human’ and building a sustainable competitive advantage, a brand needs to know its purpose, its cause, the reason it exists… its why.

Once you have unearthed your ‘why’ and created the essential bits of communication you need to convey your mission / cause / movement or beliefs, it’s time to bring them to life through the words, deeds and visuals of your brand. This is the next step in how a brand gets built, is to bring your unique version of sizzle and sparkle to what could otherwise be a bland, boring, forgettable business.

I call this ‘special sauce: ‘Brand Cool’

 One of a brand’s greatest assets, and the key to its magic mojo, is its cool factor. Its magnetism. Its sex appeal. Its instant ‘love it or hate it’ polarity. This essential, emotional x-factor, ‘Brand Cool’, is one of the only things more valuable than money that most businesses desire, but few will ever really have.


Check out Forbes ‘Most Valuable Brand’ List for the year

Brand Cool is the secret to truly unlocking all of the treasures in the Brand Advantage Cycle that we talked about last week in the episode about building desire

Just having a purpose isn’t enough, you have to make that purpose shiny, sparkly, edgy or weird enough for it to stand out in a crowd. It needs to be obvious from a distance… your business’s ‘curb appeal’ – if you will.

Consider the Tech Goliaths like Apple and Samsung in the Forbes list … The chances of them being able to rely purely on technology innovation to stay ahead of each other is unlikely, so they need to designate a significant amount of their massive marketing budgets to keep innovating with their Brand Cool to keep their competitive advantage.

What is Brand Cool?

 Brand cool, as in most types of cool, is nearly impossible to quantify or create in a lab. It’s personality, its energy. It’s a thing of the streets… of smokey back rooms. It’s a thing of long hot showers and damp earthy trails… of kitchen experimenting and bar napkin brainstorming.

Brand cool really belongs to the makers, to the doers… to the insomniacs and the freaks, to the artists and the inventors. It is not forced and it can’t be rushed. 

Brand cool is like a puff of smoke, the more you try to wrap your hands around it, the faster it disappears from sight. It’s an essential: it’s an organic, wild, inexplicable thing that comes from real people, who say and make real things. It’s for people who just don’t give a f*ck about what other people think. Many of these brand magic makers aren’t looking for it, it just happens to them… like accidentally falling in love.

For the rest of us who are trying to make brand cool on purpose (and for those big corporations in the Forbes list), we have to try to break it down and recreate it as best we can. Most of us aren’t going to stumble on it and it’s not going to be effortless, we have to strategically create it.

How do I Create Brand Cool?

 The first step in creating brand cool, is to get clear on its four essential elements, and then collaborate with the artists and inventors whose genius it is to create these bits of brand magic. Notice, I didn’t say do it yourself… almost always true brand cool is a collaborative process.

The first step in that process is to understand the key components of brand cool, there are four:

Four Elements of Brand Cool

  1. Words: voice, copy,
  2. Visuals: color, photography, graphics
  3. Experiences: moments of interaction, service,
  4. Artefacts: tangible proof, stationary, products, swag, physical things

 With each of these elements, your brand has a chance to set itself apart. To be brave and take risks that will get it noticed. To make a statement. To get weird. To make people feel amazing, or awkward, or confronted, or however you want them to feel for your message to hit home (and for your product or service to become a must-have in their life). 

Make No Mistake

For a brand, these elements of Brand Cool are not ‘nice to have’ – they are essential.

If you’re not ready to do the work, are not a super creative person and don’t have the time or money to invest in working with geniuses, or can’t see how this stuff matters, then stop here.

Do not pass go.

Do not move forward with the creation of ‘brand cool’ – go back to focusing on growing your business. Work on starting to developing your why and testing out in your business marketing – and if you want help with this do check out the Find Your Magic course we offer – it’s one of the best resources out there to help you find your big why and create the communication you’ll need in your business – like your perfect instagram bio or elevator pitch.

If you’re just starting out – you’re going to think of this process like a ‘minimum viable product’ and do the bare minimum: 

  • Some sort of basic logo
  • A consistent set of colors
  • A consistent set of fonts

You can find some templates you love at creativemarket.com and just run with that for now. You do NOT need to invest tons of time and money in branding until you know who you are, who your customer is and you have the funds to invest in doing it properly.

Just put something clean and inoffensive together quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. Then just keep testing… build up some momentum, save up some cash or contacts to do this part properly, and when you’re ready, come back to the brand building process when you’ve got more insight, more time and more budget, and treat your business and brand to a ‘refresh’ (which basically just means adding more brand cool, or making sure your brand cool fits better or speaks more directly to your ideal client).

Do not spend any significant time or money on half-assing it.

A brand that’s ‘meh’ is not going to do the job you need it to do. Even I, a branding expert and designer, waited YEARS and YEARS to develop a personal brand (with brand cool) until I found the right team of geniuses to work with and had saved the cash to invest in hiring them to do it right. 

In the meantime, I was patient, ignored the webshame, built an MVP , which then developed into a businesses with a strong why, and then I added the brand cool on top when I was ready (and I knew more about my audience).

I am ready to invest in Brand Cool

 OK, so if you’re ready to invest in a brand that makes people go crazy. A brand that’s delicious, and divine – that your ideal client wants to step inside and live in. Pulling this off, this level of brand cool, is a little bit science and a little bit magic – but it’s mostly art. If you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, you’re going to have to call in reinforcements… the ‘geniuses’ I mentioned before.

Even if you do consider yourself an artist, it’s very likely that this kind of art is going to require muscles you don’t have. Even if you DO have them, you’re probably too close to it to be objective, so plan to develop your brand cool with help, instead of in isolation.

This is the real, raw truth of building a brand that has real magic – is that it’s an art, and most of us are not the right kind of artist to do it on our own. 

Ok, so with all those caveats out of the way, let’s have a quick look at each of the brand cool elements you’re going to need:

Four Elements of Brand Cool

  1. Words: voice, copy,
  2. Visuals: color, photography/video, graphics
  3. Experiences: moments of interaction, service,
  4. Artefacts: tangible proof, stationary, products, swag, physical things

Don’t forget you will find a super great PDF CHECKLIST for each of these elements of Brand Cool in the show notes for today. I suggest you print them out and keep them near to help you along your Brand Cool building journey.  

1. Words

SO MUCH of the personality of your brand will be expressed through the words you choose to use and the ways you choose to combine them.

 The ‘tone’ or personality of your brand through its words, is referred to as ‘Brand Voice’. Your voice is essentially made up of the words you use (and don’t use) as well as the general syntax, style and personality you apply to them… To get help with words you may need a copywriter.

2. Visuals

 Now visuals breaks down into several categories, but for our purposes we’re most interested in color, images and graphics.

a) Color

One of the quickest ways creatures make decisions about things is through the interpretation of color. Not just humans, either, think of all those crazy colored birds, bugs and reptiles that use color as a way to scare off predators, attract mates or send other messages about where they fit in to the circle of life. Color is an incredibly important element in our decision-making, especially when it comes to what we buy:

“Customers generally make an initial judgment on a product within 90 seconds of interaction with that product and about 62%-90% of that judgment is based on color” (… here’s more from the wiki explanation

b) Photography / Video

There is no sales tool MORE effective per dollar-spent than wonderful, emotive, descriptive imagery (both still and video imagery).

With entrepreneurs, this is one of the most overlooked and under utilized ways to instantly connect with potential clients. Most companies dabble in photography – most businesses know they need it to show their products or fill their website up – but is the fair few who really, really get photography right and those that do, profit immensely from their investment.

This is as true, or TRUER with video! 

c) Graphics

When they want information quickly, people don’t like to read. It’s time-consuming. It’s an investment. They skim. They look and make a judgment within a few seconds as to whether or not to make that investment in you or your business. Also, reading is tiring so if I can take more information in through visual means, all the better. Graphics like icons and infographics and add HUGE leaps and bounds to the ability of your customers to get where you need them to go faster and with more ease.

When it comes to Brand Cool, graphics like your logo, like the layouts of your print, environmental and online marketing stuff and of course custom illustrations (repeating pattern anyone?) add TONS to the overall cool of your brand.  

3. Experiences

In a digital, global, automated, outsourced, increasingly cynical world – the experiences we create for our customers (and potential customers) is more important than ever. Each ‘touch-point’ with your people is an opportunity to thrill them. At the start, of course we’re just concerned with the basics of getting all this stuff working properly – but eventually – when you’re in ‘Brand Cool’ territory, you want to take a long look at the way your people experience your brand, products, services etc.

Essentially, anything experiential in your brand, from customer service, to unboxing, to damage control, to ‘user experience’ on your website, is about two things:

  1. Increasing desire
  2. Reducing friction

Ultimately, as brands we are playing the long game, and we want not just the ‘quick buck’ – but to build relationships and invest in the lifetime value of our people. 

 4. Artefacts

Some of the MOST FUN bits of building a brand include the tangible artefacts you create to reflect your brand cool. This will include ‘brand swag’ like stickers, buttons, client gifts, tee shirts etc. It will also include your ‘packaging’ – literal packaging like boxes and tissue paper and ribbons and bags… as well as things like uniforms and environmental design like displays, event booths, vehicle wraps etc. (packaging up the stuff that’s not your actual product). It also includes the tangible ‘takeaways’ that your customer may hold on to… the brochures, welcome packets, postcards, tags, magazines or other print pieces you produce to stay ‘top of mind’ at and after a purchase, or an encounter with you or your brand.

This is an element you have to be careful with because it’s easy to spend a LOT of money going crazy with artefacts – but it IS important to consider this element of brand cool and make sure you at least have a few artefacts that exist in the real world (not just online) that reinforce your customers purchase decision, or increase their desire. This element is actually a part of #3 Experiences – because the goal is for these artefacts to create a wonderful moment, or memorable (or repeatable) experience. 

Ok so those are the Four Elements of Brand Cool

  1. Words: voice, copy,
  2. Visuals: color, photography/video, graphics
  3. Experiences: moments of interaction, service,
  4. Artefacts: tangible proof, stationary, products, swag, physical things

For the next 4 weeks we’re going to take a closer look at each of the four elements and some important things to remember for each… but to get you started make sure you grab the PDF checklist which gives you an awesome list of assets you might want for each element – including the bit of copy you’ll want to have on-hand, the different colors types you’ll want to consider, the logo files you may want, must-have images, some ideas for brand experiences and even some essential #brandswag artefacts. 

Thank you for being here.

If you want to continue the discussion, pop over to our free facebook group and if I can ask a favor, it would mean a lot if you could take a second and leave a review for this podcast over on iTunes. This will help us reach other magic makers, so together we can do more good, be more real, find more happy and continue building brands that matter.

See you next time!

Learn more about Brand Building on our YouTube channel!

What makes brands cool pin image

What makes brands cool pin image
What makes brands cool pin image

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